When Chris Fernandes quit studies at York University nearly three decades ago to become a Toronto police officer, his father was dumbfounded.
Who could blame the family patriarch, who had migrated from Guyana, where most parents view the medical and legal professions as superior to a law enforcement career?
His son, however, had made up his mind that he wanted to be a cop and joined Toronto Police in 1986. Rising to the rank of Superintendent, Fernandes’ father has been his biggest supporter over the years.
“He’s come full circle and fully embraces policing,” said the 49-year-old Fernandes. “It all has to do with the professionalism and high standards which Toronto Police promote and maintain.”
No one could have been more elated than his dad when Fernandes was sworn in as Durham Regional Police Service’s (DRPS) new deputy chief last Monday.
Fernandes will be responsible for leading the development, implementation and communication of policing and operational support strategies to advance positive community safety outcomes; managing the human, financial and capital assets and pursuing excellence in partnerships and performance measurements.
The Whitby resident is looking forward to the new challenge.
“For 28 years, I was blessed to be a member of the Toronto Police Service, which has given me everything I wanted, including a high quality of life,” said Fernandes, who migrated from Guyana in 1974. “I owe everything I have to Toronto Police. Having lived in Durham for just over 20 years where I coach hockey and soccer, I always thought it would be great to serve the community I live in. That’s what made this opportunity very attractive. I relish the chance to work with the chief and the board to make a difference in this community.”
Board chair Roger Anderson said Fernandes boasts the qualities that they were seeking in the candidate to replace Scott Burns, who has retired after 28 years with the organization.
“We are delighted to attract such a quality police executive to Durham region,” said Anderson. “His leadership ability, his diverse experience and his understanding of the challenges facing the police sector will help the DRPS achieve new levels of excellence and innovation. He will be a tremendous addition to Chief Paul Martin’s dedicated team of police professionals.”
Leaving a Service that has set a benchmark for diversity achievement, Fernandes will no doubt expect DRPS to become more representative of the community it serves.
Durham has become more culturally and ethnically diverse as the population of immigrants and visible minorities grow at a rapid pace.
“Toronto Police is not the end-all of policing,” said Fernandes, who was the organizer of the annual Toronto Police Games at Variety Village. “But it’s a big police service that sets a lot of trends. Toronto Police is very innovative and it’s the first Service to have done a lot of things. I have been blessed to be part of that innovation. I feel I am in a position to bring some of my knowledge and experience to enhance police legitimacy and public trust and build stronger partnerships.”
A graduate of West Hill Collegiate Institute, Fernandes resided in the Malvern community for almost two decades before moving to Whitby when he tied the nuptial knot in 1991. The couple has three children, including twin 13-year-old boys.
“This year, the boys will be going to high school which is about five minutes away from my new office,” he said. “I will have the opportunity to spend more quality time with them and my little granddaughter, who is just a few months old.”
Starting his policing career at 41 Division, Fernandes was assigned to the four district street crime unit two years later and the emergency task force where he spent eight years, the last three as a sergeant after securing his first promotion in 1998.
Promoted to staff sergeant in 2001, Fernandes worked at 54 Division for two and half years and with the 52 and 55 division community response units before being elevated to the rank of inspector in 2007 and dispatched to the headquarters duty desk.
After a 14-month stint at 32 Division, Fernandes was put in charge of the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) in November 2009. He led the Divisional Police Support Unit, created three years ago. An amalgamation of TAVIS and the Community Mobilization Unit, the new entity also encompasses the school resource officer program and the transit patrol.